What an amazing day!. Zanne just left “the farm” and headed for South Bend.
We hit the street by the Federal Bldg. in Fort Wayne by 8 a.m. this morning. Zanne and I were the first to arrive, followed shortly by Betty, then Dave, then Phyllis, Bruce, Bonnie and 5 or six others wonderful folks for a Peace Vigil in front of the Federal Building where Evan Bayh’s office is located. The specific target of this gathering was awareness of Bayh’s vote for war funding in May. Zanne is doing her best to visit the office of every Democratic Senator who voted in May to fund the war. By 8:30 we were organizing to go up to Senator Bayh’s office.
No cameras or cell phones allowed in the building. Have to have ID with photo. Once we made it through security two very large burly men stepped up to block our way and ask us what we intended to do. He referred to us as protestors. I didn’t intend to argue with him but I would have loved to have had the time to discuss his labeling of us. “We’ve had trouble with protestors before,” he said. “Laying down in the halls and such.” Was he referring to the three men who were arrested as they prayed in the Federal Building in April? Anyway I didn’t appreciate the physical blocking of our entry, so I politely said, is it okay if we go through (meaning between these two federal marshals.)” Four people had decided to go up, but it soon became clear that only three of us were on the same page with the purpose of this planned visit. But that was good too as it provided a few “educational moments.”
When we arrived upstairs, no one was in Bayh’s office so we stopped by Mark Souder’s office to give his staff some feedback to pass on to him. That was that we watch what all senators and Reps do and we like to give positive feedback where it is appropriate. While Congressman Souder has a long way to go, we have noticed that he has moved toward opposing the war and bringing our troops home.
After we left Congressman Souders office we stood in the hall debating whether we should wait there for Senator Bayh’s office to open. That was when “one of our own” started unloading on us about how she thought Bayh was doing a good job and that we should support him. We tried to calmly reply that Bayh voted to fund the war in May. The viewpoint that this woman espoused was that we have to support any Democrat in Indiana no matter what. My take is that any Democratic Senator in Indiana needs to support the will of the people. We need him to lead, we need him or her to have the courage to do what is right, not mouth the Republican framing of an issue. Even here in the conservative Bible Belt the majority of the people want our troops home NOW.
I pay taxes here in Indiana and have lived well over half my life here in this state. All the branches of my family have been Hoosiers for going on two centuries (not to mention the Indian ancestors who met those folks as they arrived.) We do not want war. We do not want to send our children to fight the wars that benefit the rich families and their corporate manifestations.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell the supporter from the provocateur – this is just my opinion, but I believe some of the internal divisive behavior we experienced this morning is “cornered prey” behavior. In extremely conservative Republican strongholds it can be fairly easy to develop a mindset that works almost totally from dichotomy of us them and to live and work from a mindset of fear that demands fight or flight responses rather than reasoned calm assessments of areas of mutual agreement.
We all come from different places and perspectives. We must look for areas of overlap, areas of agreement, areas where we can cooperate, and we must not sabotage each other. We must support each other and all grow through learning from each other.
I sometimes allow myself to engage in magical thinking and I’m allowing myself that luxury per my thoughts about this morning. Had it not been for the presence of a woman who wants peace but does not feel it is appropriate to “disrespect” Senator Bayh (and who cannot hear me when I say that I don’t feel it is appropriate for Senator Bayh to disrespect the people) we might not have still been on the floor when Brent Wake, the regional Director for Senator Evan Bayh, opened up the office.
Mr. Wake is a well-spoken man. He asked us in, attempted to get us all chairs, and listened intently and politely as we asked him to please make sure the Senator gets the message that the people of Indiana do not believe that his vote for war spending in May was justified and that we expect him to vote to cut off war funding in September. Mr. Wake attempted to explain to us that the Senator didn’t want to abandon the troops in Iraq without money to support their return. We discussed several of the fallacies inherent in that essentially Republican framed argument. We attempted to explain that we need our Democratic Senators to be courageous and to lead without concern about whether that will a prudent political career move for them.
I mentioned my pink sister of the peace struggle being arrested and prosecuted in Hammond, Indiana for reading the names of the American Service men and women who have died in Iraq . She was arrested in front of building that houses Senator Bayh’s office. Why was she ordered away before she had finished reading the names of those who have given their lives to defend our country even though the entire situation we were supposedly defending our country from was a crock of warm spittle? Why does Senator Bayh refuse to meet with the peace community of Indiana? The bright side is that Mr Wake did say he would attempt to arrange a meeting between the Senator and the Ft. Wayne Peace Community. Betty is the contact that Mr. Wake will notify per the meeting. She will contact the rest of the peace community as best she can after she receives the call.
It was so good to talk to people on the street. One gentleman, Jebbar, who has recently completed his military service actually drove past us and then parked and came over to thank us and to let us know that a large, large segment of the men and women of the military wants us out of Iraq. He was articulate, informed and radiated the peaceful confidence of a just man. There is hope for us if he in any way represents our young adult population.
We also talked to a woman with a wonderful presence, Jackie, who said she wanted to mention us on her blog and how she supported the peace work that we are trying to do. She had spotted Zanne’s truck outside and knew we were around somewhere. I’m glad she found us.
A young woman at the FW Food Coop asked for literature and said she would take info about the September actions to her church.
All in all an amazing day.
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